Vaelin is the son of the Battle Lord, given to the Sixth Order of the Faith where he learns how to fight and kill without remorse for the sake of their Faith. He goes through adventures and mysteries surrounding the kingdom and the hidden Seventh Order and the blood-song.
This book is remarkably similar to Sherwood Smith's Inda series - but I would actually say it compares less favorably. The greatest weakness of this book is the dialogue. Most of the story is told in an limited third person, centered on Vaelin's perspective. So most of the story is actually description and what's going on in his head. But the sparse dialogue is so stilted and unbelievable, I kept wincing every time the characters talked. You can tell what kind of character the author is trying to portray, but it fails miserably in selling it realistically.
I also didn't like the characters for the most part probably because the author can't seem to figure out if the character is an anti-hero or a hero. Does he get slowly tainted by committing acts against his moral code and become a true anti-hero? Sort of, kind of, some what, not really. It's never really clear as he keeps committing anti-hero acts with a hero mindset and it never gets any clearer despite the lengthiness of the novel. He doesn't learn or change or grow. He stays the same the whole time playing this strange duality of being the "noble" hero in mindset but committing anti-hero acts. That's bothersome to me because it means the author doesn't really know how to portray his character. In the end, it doesn't make the character likable at all.
He doesn't learn from his mistakes (listening to his magic, sharing information, and the list goes on) - it's very frustrating. I don't believe the author did a good job fleshing them out - even Vaelin for all the text devoted to him. I didn't get a clear sense of what kind of person each character is. For example, Vaelin was pushed to be a leader and a commander, but he never truly takes charge except for a few pithy words. That could be the fault of the weak dialogue, but I also believe it's poor characterization.
The author also didn't establish the world and its inhabitants clearly. I'm used a ton of names and races and countries thrown around (via Inda and Game of Thrones), but each race seemed to just blur together with no description to anchor them into memory. Poor world building technique. The world has potential, even though I've seen similar worlds before - nothing that new to rave about.
I also found the magic system interesting and I was disappointed of how little the author expanded on it. Most of the story was hack and slash fighting, which I found myself skimming through to get to understanding more of his magic.... and found myself disappointed.
The love interest was as expected and quite boring, but that's alright. Every book needs its romance.
There were also a lot of loose ends, which is expected because it's only the first book. But some mystery or confusion should be attributed more to clumsy writing than intrigue or build up for the next book.
This book attempts to be an epic fantasy by pulling the reader through a barrack of warrior-priests, kingdoms, and warfare in a different country. I think it's more sloppily done than epic. But there are very nice moments with a plot that does carry you into interesting situations.
Three stars because it's a decent read. Nothing to scream about, but worth perusing if you're not too strapped for time. Recommended for those who prefer longer novels with a host of characters and countries. Don't expect another Game of Thrones though.